COMPASS: Congress’ coming collision course

October 18th, 2021

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. Rest in peace Colin Powell: soldier, national security advisor, Secretary of State, and lifetime public servant.

The House and Senate are back in session this week, with Democrats continuing to pursue passage of both the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill packed with social spending priorities. Efforts seem to be heading in the direction of slimming the $3.5 trillion down to about $2 trillion — at least in this go-round. On Friday, Biden said “we’re not going to get $3.5 trillion. We’ll get less than that, but we’re going to get it. And we’re going to come back and get the rest.”

At issue is Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) opposition to roughly $150 billion in climate and clean energy programs, and opposition from Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and a group of centrist House Democrats to changing Medicare’s prescription drug pricing mechanisms. Manchin is also reportedly asking to keep the child tax credit extension to families making $60,000 a year or less, while adding work requirements.

If you think these spats aren’t getting personal, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) published an op-ed calling out Sen. Manchin’s opposition in Manchin’s hometown paper. Manchin shot back with “This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state.” Yikes.

Democrats are charging toward an Oct. 31 deadline imposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which also happens to be when highway funding expires as well. Congress has punted the debt ceiling to December, where it will collide with a government funding deadline, and the defense authorization bill.

I never try to predict the future, but it’s worth pointing out that when there’s a course collision in December, the pile up generally results in one or two giant bills packed with every expiring provision and thousands of provisions and policies that would never pass on their own, but will pass in a moment of crisis when the pressure is on, everyone wants to leave town, and no one is given time to actually read anything.

That massive bill is probably already written, sitting in a drawer somewhere, awaiting the moment when congressional leaders can use crisis deadlines to their maximum advantage — bludgeoning members into passing thousands of pages of legislation they’ve never seen before with limited debate, no amendments, and no questions asked. For the swamp, this is a feature not a bug.

Expect to find out about what Congress manages to pass in December, but only when the new Congress convenes in January and it’s officially too late to do anything about it.

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One More Thing…

The second and third installments of Cleta Mitchell’s new podcast on election integrity are now live. Grab them here, or wherever you get your podcasts.